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Madison wrote:What, no pictures?
I kid, I kid, the mood in this thread is grim. Just trying (poorly) to lighten it up a bit. At least she has survived and maybe will recover (says the halo was able to be removed).
The word “decapitated” carried her story across the globe on a tsunami of news wires, Web sites and blogs.
The flood of interest amazed the former Fremont woman who was injured Jan. 25 in a traffic accident 50 miles southeast of Lincoln.
“It’s crazy,” Shannon Malloy said in a thready, raspy voice when reached by phone at her mother’s home in Colorado.
A Denver TV station called her injury an internal decapitation, conjuring images of Frankenstein and Ichabod Crane.
The technical term is atlantooccipital dislocation.
As her head hit the dashboard, the force separated the skull from the spine. It’s not an uncommon injury, but it’s usually found during an autopsy.
It’s similar to what Christopher Reeve suffered, only his was more severe.
Surviving a dislocated head, while still rare, has become more common due to quicker airway protection and better spinal isolation at accident scenes. More than 100 “decapitated” people may be walking around, according to medical literature.
As Malloy’s story sped across the globe, it was told like a fairy tale: Woman is decapitated, survives, does well, and it’s a miracle.
On good days, she wouldn’t dispute that.
But not every day is good.
The slight 30-year-old — who is 5 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 125 pounds — was a passenger in the vehicle involved in the accident near Tecumseh. She’s suing an insurer and can’t give specifics about the crash. Accident details were not available from Johnson County officials.
“I remember being slumped over and not being able to respond,” she said.
“I don’t remember any pain.”
She heard her breath gurgling but could do nothing about it.
“Stay alive,” she thought to herself. “I can’t die.”
She heard her boyfriend, Graham Neary, asking if she was OK.
“Please stay with me,” she heard him say. “Then I don’t remember much until the paramedics pulled me out of the car.”
She was taken to BryanLGH Medical Center West, but her memory of the three weeks she spent in ICU are fragmented. She recalls interacting with family, but a ventilator prevented her from talking.
“At some point in the ICU, I remember writing a note (to her mom), asking if I was paralyzed.
“She said, ‘No.’”
Then, “why was I there?”
Malloy’s mother, Robin Frazee, arrived from Denver the day after the accident. Doctors at first focused on Malloy’s broken pelvis and ankle, but that changed when she stopped breathing as her ventilator was removed.
An MRI offered a view of “something real funky way up high near the base of her skull,” Frazee said.
An orthopedic halo, a metal cage, was placed over her head to isolate movement.
Malloy calls herself a pessimist.
But somehow she has stayed mostly positive throughout her ordeal.
“My family keeps joking that I must be brain damaged because I’m so positive,” she said.
After ICU, Malloy was moved to rehabilitation at BryanLGH. It was her strongest moment, walking out two weeks later.
Given the extent of her injuries and her recovery over five weeks, she thought: “Everything’s going to be OK soon.”
That proved to be too optimistic.
Her eyes remain crossed, but surgery could fix that.
She underwent surgical fusion of the occipital bone to the C3 vertebrae to create stability. It allows her head to turn 1 inch side to side. The halo came off on April 13.
But she can’t swallow.
“My esophagus muscle is so tight that even water won’t pass through,” she said. “I can’t even swallow my own spit.”
Her birthday is June 1, and her mother said Malloy often says: “All I want is to swallow for my birthday.” Or, “I’d never walk again if I thought I could swallow.”
Malloy was between jobs at the time of the accident, said her mother, now her advocate and care assistant.
No surgeries to fix Malloy’s vision or swallowing are scheduled.
Money remains a problem.
When the family didn’t hear from the insurance company after the accident, they hired a lawyer. That used much of the money that had been forthcoming.
Malloy went to the emergency room Sunday because of an infection around her feeding tube. She’d been trying for weeks to get an appointment to take care of the problem, Frazee said.
They have visited the Denver Medicaid office seven times, she said, and they continue to be told they need to return with additional information.
The fund established for Malloy has been disappointing, but they don’t know how much money they’ll need for the surgeries or even how many surgeries are needed.
Comments on some blogs and Web sites blame Malloy for her injuries or have lobbed criticism.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” Malloy said. “The people making negative comments don’t realize this is really happening to somebody, and it’s not some bad movie.”
But it can feel like a bad movie.
Sometimes, she said, “I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. At other times, I wish I was on the outside looking in.”
It has made her more aware of her strengths.
“I thought I was strong, but I had no idea that I was this strong,” she said.
Before her accident, Malloy kept a journal and wrote poetry. She’s tried writing this story, but her constant backaches make it difficult.
“I’m not a religious person, but there’s a reason for me to be here,” she said. “And I’ve got to find out what that reason is and fulfill it.”
For her mother, something amazing has been shown by the global response: “People care.”
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